Title: Moments of Reflection
Author: Lindsay Ince | email@example.com
Disclaimer: They belong to Aaron Sorkin - the boy got game.
Spoilers: The Way of Two Gunmen Part One
Summary: As Jed is in surgery - Abbey takes a moment.
Feedback: I couldn't be happier about it - bring it on!
The chapel was cold. Why was it hospital chapels were always cold? Was it some kind of reminder of the condition of the dead, or to remind the hopeless that if they were cold they must still be alive? She shivered, and pulling her coat around her, slipped her hand into her pocket to search for a tissue. She sniffed and blew her nose, not letting her head decide if her runny nose was due to her cold or a fit of crying she had allowed herself in the restroom. She took a mirror out of her purse and undid the clasp, peering into it to check if she looked almost passable to return to the public eye. There was no press in the hospital but it didn't matter, every time Abigail Bartlet stepped into a room she was in the public eye. Everyone looked to her, everyone probing for a mood, or an answer or something that would give them to the key to her very soul. It was highly annoying, and the last thing she needed at the present time. But the last thing she could do was snap, which was completely counter-productive and brought her nothing but grief. Or rather, it brought C.J nothing but grief, which in turn brought Jed nothing but grief. Ultimately then, it brought her nothing but grief. By the state C.J looked to be in as had sat in the waiting room with the senior staff earlier in the evening, or morning depending on how you looked at it, dealing with her bad temper was about the last thing C.J needed to do right now.
She checked her watch. It was the early hours of the morning, and it was absolutely quiet. Though chapels had a tendency to be quiet all the time, usually the bustle on the corridors outside penetrated the protective silence of the chapel. Tonight there was nothing, which was strange in a usually heaving medical facility such as this one. It was surreal, and frankly unnerving. All of this, closing down an entire hospital for them. She knew as she stepped out onto the corridor and began to walk back toward triage she would be joined by the light footsteps of two agents in black suits that were twice her size, but somehow she had never felt so unprotected. She had always trusted them. All these men and women, spending years of their lives training for these moments, protecting them every minute of every hour of every day, and despite their best efforts, and she would never blame them for all this, they still got through. They could still shoot a man surrounded by 50 other men with guns protecting them. The could still try and shoot a man standing 2 feet away from her baby girl, and there wasn't a damn thing anyone could do about it. Using the arm of the pew as an aid, she pulled herself up and wrapped her coat around her again. Walking to the door she looked back toward the altar and the plain cross standing in the middle of it. Sighing deeply she turned and walked out into the corridor.
Outside the door, a doctor was whispering with one of her security guards. Breaking apart as the spotted her, the guard nodded that it was okay for the doctor to speak with her. The doctor quickly explained that the surgery had gone as expected and that Jed was in the recovery room and expected to wake up any minute. Dutifully, she followed the doctor down the hall to recovery at a crawl, while all the time inside she was screaming inside to run, to leave the long faced frowning man and his snail pace and go to her husband. However, that was impossible, and a most undignified thing for a FLOTUS to do, so she reigned herself in, and fell into step with the doctor who led her toward the recovery room. Jed Bartlet lay on the bed, with a sheet covering him up to his mid-chest, with tubes coming from his nose and arms. Stands next to the bed held I.V bags of fluids, and a monitor kept time with a steady beep for each heartbeat. She was hardly listening as the doctor reeled off a list of vital signs that she had demanded to hear when she first arrived at the hospital, but couldn't bear to think about now. He was alive, and that was all that mattered. As the door closed, leaving her alone in the room with him, she wiped away a tear that was forming in the corner of her eye and walked over to the uncomfortable looking plastic chair by his bed. She pulled off her coat and sat down, all the time her eyes were focussed on his. He was still unconscious, but as her eyes followed the path of the tubes she watched the steady rising and falling of his chest for a moment, and breathed a sigh of relief. How close had she come to losing him tonight? A couple of millimetres this way or that and it would have been very different. As the thought of her life without Josiah Bartlet hit her, the tears began to fall freely. Bowing her head and covering her face with her hand she cried silently, her shoulders shaking.
'Is this any way to behave at a man's sickbed?' A hoarse voice above her broke into her self pity.
She looked up quickly.
'Who did you expect it to be - Harrison Ford?' He grimaced at the effort of trying to be witty after some pretty serious surgery and in the face of what she imagined was pretty serious pain.
'Don't try to be smart, it's never suited you and you don't have the energy.'
This easy bickering was a relationship trademark, and something they constantly indulged in, something they could both enjoy. It was quite separate to the legendary rows that would test both of their tempers. She looked into his tired looking but still sharp eyes. The sparkle was still there, glistening away. It was the first thing about him that attracted her to him over thirty years ago. She realised that it was the fear of looking into those eyes and seeing the sparkle gone that had scared her shitless all night. A few more tears slipped down her cheeks and he slowly lifted his hand from the bed and wiped them away. She leant closer to the bed so he could reach her face more easily, and softly sighed as he cupped her cheek with his palm.
'Shh, it's okay. I feel fine. What time is it?' He asked.
She leaned closer into his hand, 'Time you stopped worrying about the time. You're not going anywhere Jed, you do know that?'
'The world isn't going to stop just because someone took a pot shot at me. Zoey's okay?'
'Ron Butterfield said she threw up in the back of the car, you're sure she's okay?'
She stroked that hand that remained on her cheek, and soothed him as he voice grew more forceful as he got more tense. 'It was just shock. She's downstairs with Charlie and the senior staff.'
'Are they all okay?'
There was silence as Abbey involved herself in an internal debate over whether to tall him about Josh.
'Abbey?' It was a 'I-know-there's-something-you'd-better-tell-me-right-now' voice. 'What is it?
'What about Josh, was he injured?' He was worried, as he turned away to face the ceiling she could almost pinpoint the moment his thought processes kicked in. Trying to remember where he was, where Josh was, and how bad it could be.
'He was shot Jed.' He snapped his head back to look straight at her.
'Pretty bad,' she conceded. 'They got him in the chest. A collapsed lung and a ruptured pulmonary artery. He's in surgery right now, and will be for a while.'
'I want to see him.'
'Later, when you're out of recovery. I'll talk to the doctor about it.'
'I want to see him, Abbey.' He was insistent, but so was she.
He sighed and laid his head back, dropping his hand back on the bed. She already missed the warmth of it.
'I'm going to tell Zoey you're awake. I'll send for Leo, he has stuff he needs to talk about with you.'
'Try and rest?'
She looked at him with concern, and he acknowledged it, nodding his head. She turned and picked up her coat, walking to the edge of the room. Just as she reached out to grasp the door handle a voice stopped her.
It was almost a whisper, and she turned around to face him again. He was looking straight at her. Eyes piercing, the strength that had always been a part of him had returned for that moment. She felt a slight relief, that she didn't have to be the strong one anymore, that he could take over again. She could love her independence, and be well known as nobody's fool, but she relied on him to protect her, and part of her kind of liked it that way.
'I love you.'
She smiled at him, blinking back the tears again. His face was deadly serious, he could have been delivering the order to bomb the hell out of Iraq but he knew what it meant. She always knew what he meant.
'I love you too. I'll see you in a little while. Rest.'
He laid his head back down on the pillow as she closed the door softly behind her and turned as she began her trek back to the waiting room. Two bodyguards fell into step a stride behind her, each looking around more cautiously than usual, and a natural thing in light of the circumstances. As she passed the windows of the waiting room she surveyed the inhabitants. Donna, sitting perfectly erect, a blank look on her face, not even trying to hide the agony of the wait to see if Josh would survive the surgery to try and repair his pulmonary artery. She could empathise with the girl; she knew how much Donna cared for Josh. She was feeling exactly the same things about Jed, even though her head knew he would probably make a full recovery, her heart dreaded that word every relative dreaded: complications. It was ridiculous, and she had put the thought out of her head every time it had dared to enter in. Mrs Landingham sat next to Donna, holding her hand as she had done earlier in the evening. C.J, Toby and Leo were nowhere to be seen, until she remembered Leo telling her earlier they were going to go back to the office to deal with the press and the investigation and the situation in Haiti. Her daughter sat in the chairs opposite Donna and Delores Landingham, with her husband's body man, Charlie right beside her. She still looked shocked, but Abbey knew she derived comfort from having Charlie there with her. Opening the door and walking back into the room, Charlie and Zoey stood up to greet her and Mrs Landingham turned her head and nodded in acknowledgement. Donna didn't move.
'Mom, what's going on?' Zoey asked impatiently, 'It's been hours.'
Abbey walked over to her daughter and hugged her tightly. 'It's going to be okay, sweetie. Dad got out of surgery a little while ago, he's not quite awake yet, but you can see him soon.
* * * * * THE END * * * * *